Europe Clears Path to 2023 Exascale Supercomputer

While the U.S., China, Japan and other countries have laid out, or even achieved, exascale supercomputing goals, the European continent has been less clear on its own path.

Momentum is building, however, as the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking (JU) has taken first steps to establish the future site for Europe’s first exascale system and how it will be funded. The EuroHPC JU sent out a call for proposals to sites that might host Europe’s first exascale supercomputer, which the organization believes can be acquired in 2022.

Under proposal terms, EuroHPC will cover half of system acquisition costs and up to half of the operating costs of the system. All site infrastructure and building costs will be on the hosting site but EuroHPC can wrap some of the site preparation and adaption costs into the TCO to be covered by EuroHPC.

The straightforward goal, according to EuroHPC, is to build “a capability system with an aggregated performance level capable of executing at least one exaflop of sustained performance measured using Linpack benchmark” and one that covers the needs of a wide range of applications “in particular, grand challenge applications that demonstrably require the capability usage of the supercomputer, i.e., using simultaneously a large part of the resources of the system.”

Another important target is to be able to “perform at least a Level 1 measurement quality for a Top 500 submission” and centers will be expected to provide their own configuration specs, including types of nodes (with or without accelerators, high memory nodes, etc.) along with the proposed memory, storage, and network architecture along with how those are distributed throughout the system. In addition, competing sites will need to take those node counts and provide expected sustained Linpack numbers and performance expectations for the domain areas.

The 2022 timeframe to acquire a system (with delivery by mid-2023) is rapidly approaching. Applications are due by February but EuroHPC has also said that there submissions can include exascale paths versus straight systems, including prototype machines.

According to the call, “interested hosting entities may also include in their application an optional system targeting the development of an advanced experimental platform towards exascale systems. The goal of such a platform shall be to develop an exploratory supercomputing infrastructure for the development, integration, testing, and co-design of a wide range of European technologies suitable to be part of the future European exascale systems. The development, installation and operating costs of such platform should be marginal to the overall cost of the proposal.”

To date the EuroHPC JU has already procured seven supercomputers, located across Europe. Five petascale supercomputers: Vega in Slovenia, MeluXina in Luxembourg, Discoverer in Bulgaria, Karolina in the Czech Republic and Deucalion in Portugal, as well as  two EuroHPC pre-exascale supercomputers LUMI in Finland, Leonardo in Italy.  The procurement of the third EuroHPC pre-exascale supercomputer, MareNostrum5 in Spain, is on-going.

In case the hosting entity decides to include such optional system in their application and its application selected, any grant that will be established to cover the operating costs of each individual EuroHPC supercomputer, may also include a part cover up to 50% of the eligible costs for the development of the advanced experimental platform towards exascale. The maximum costs cannot exceed 6% of the overall TCO of the EuroHPC supercomputer.

Only existing, robust sites can apply with such a short deadline as required information includes details from past Top 500 class system experiences.

Sites will have to have in place power capacity in the 20-25MW range, along with UPS power to cover other system elements (storage, networking) and ample air or liquid cooling capabilities within at least 700 square meters of raised floor space.

Centers contending for Europe’s first exascale system will also be ranked by a number of broader factors, including expected TCO of the system in the context of importance of applications, experience of sites in managing large systems, overall physical and IT support infrastructure, and willingness to work with EuroHPC JU users. These sites will have to provide details for their PUE over the last year for existing systems, depreciation details for the facility, and current electricity pricing, along with the number of staff currently required (and expected) to run a future exascale system.

EuroHPC JU says any hosting site must meet the baseline requirements in time for the anticipated delivery time of June 2023. If that delivery time is met, it is conceivable we could see Europe’s first exascale system on the Top 500 in November 2023.

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